tv Close up - The True Cost of Electric Cars Deutsche Welle November 27, 2018 6:15am-6:46am CET
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more. this is how germany's roads look these days too much traffic exhaust fumes and noise conventional auto mobility is reaching its limits. electric cars are meant to be part of the solution quiet and supposedly clean but how are the raw materials for their rechargeable batteries obtained. take lithium for instance. gin them by young men eons and many ns of euros but they sacrifice human life and they sacrifice animals physically they sacrifice life physically faecal of eda. cobalt is also essential nearly two thirds of the cobalt produced won't wide comes from the democratic republic of congo it's mined in shots like this one three of those are a security check has ruled the work is really very dangerous there are accidents
almost every day on the site since. it is electro mobility not as clean. as we all think it is. the. transport planners are pinning their hopes on electric cars they're still fairly rare but that set to change. mobility researchers that some parts of is convinced of that. we assume that starting in the mid twenty's twenty years we can expect at least fifteen percent of new vehicles registered to be electric vats would be fifteen to twenty million a newly registered electric vehicles in twenty twenty five yards one difference one says you know it's ok lawson we're. millions of electric cars powered by
rechargeable batteries weighing hundreds of kilograms they contain rare minerals manganese graphite cobalt and lithium each battery contains from twenty to thirty kilos of lithium carbonate. here deep underground lies the lithium that german car makers depend on the atacama desert in chile one of the driest places on earth. this allowed to out a comma a huge salt flats lies in the north on the country's borders to argentina and bolivia. its surface is encrusted with salt for kilometers on end. but deep in the ground there's mineral rich water and that's where the lithium is to be found. this mine extracts the ultra light metal pumps bring the salt water from the ground up to the surface it ends up
in huge pools. in the heat of the desert the water evaporates the pools in this mine alone cover forty four square kilometers. a landscape of evaporation pools stretches all the way to the arisan. it takes five months for the water to become a viscous substance. it contains about six percent lithium. tank trucks take the concentrate to a factory. there it will be processed further to make lithium carbonate. the mine uses enormous amounts of groundwater about twenty one million liters every
day. but the atacama desert is already one of the driest places on earth the brain almost never falls here. still where there is water there's life the small oases around the salt flats have been settled for millennia people here have always been good at rationing valuable water. a few crops a few goats that's their livelihood. jose to let is ninety two every day he still works in his garden there's more sand than soil live round he tills but when there's water his plot there's fruit. right there down in new york has plums fakes even oranges normally everything grows year. after her grouper out on the cob. he can still live from the
fruits of his labor yet but the water is becoming scarcer all the time. we have very little water it was came from the canal. but look at this now there's no more water flowing through it we're going to get our. farmer christiane spindler is also worried that soon nothing will grow here. but this used to be a small oasis there will people here animals and fields. if it all but it was paradise. but we had enough water for life animals pure nature that wouldn't. come as farmers no longer have a future because tennis spindler is sure the lithium mines are at fault if this is a cool everything's a target because the mining companies pump out the groundwater they've dried out
the village. the mining companies have caused this it's death that. german car makers need huge amounts of lithium the impact here is dramatic because they see it and they're not allowed to move your people at the other end of the world you should know this they produce lithium and make victims of us they earn millions and millions of euros but they sacrifice human life on this. or they sacrifice animals. they sacrifice life. and us how the world is and nobody cast in wonder if bessie. and that view. the indigenous farmers on the atacama salt flat face an uncertain future. more and more new evaporation pools are being built. chile aims to more than
quadrupled its lithium production by twenty twenty five to up to three hundred fifty thousand tonnes a year mainly because of the rising demand from carmakers. but resistance against mining is increasing as it is here the away says village of paina lies on the southern rim of the salt lot there are mines everywhere. sasha is captain of the local football team he's also head of pain his indigenous community for millennia these people have lived in the few places where there is water then the chilean government sold the water rights oh. but upward been able to make money they suddenly guaranteed all the water rights to the mining companies we've illiterate sometimes have to turn off our water so that we have some for the next day. could be
a word in there that we don't understand how people can have no water while the mining companies keep wasting it for me to continuously. but it's not just humans here who are affected by the mines so are the flora and fauna on the salt lakes they're home to various species of flamingo the birds feed on tiny algae and crustaceans lithium mining is threatening that ecosystem. mileage just matilda lopez from the university of santiago has no doubt about that she and her coworker jorge are travelling to assault like today even from her car she can see that things have changed. it goes. just so good. i'm worried about the large area of dried up lagoon on this site so this out of the city all the places where you now see only salt used to have water i was told there
were no salt flats here but there was water i want to. pass started her research in the early one nine hundred eighty s. back then everything was in order then the lithium mines came. in. and more and more water was pumped out that caused the groundwater table to sink and with it the water levels in the lagoons. banded out that has an impact on the small animals and plants the flamingos feed on and when the endian flamingo becomes extinct so will the fox the final link in the future. will be worth knowing. so it's not just the majestic birds that are affected the salt lagoons are a multifaceted ecosystem in the otherwise inhospitable atacama desert some animals
exist nowhere else in the world the water table is sinking this lagoon is becoming saltier and the biologists measurements bear that out. the scientists find scarcely any small organisms in their samples but the flamingos depend on them and. with the unfettered backgammon the sonata atacama used to be home to the largest population of indian flamingos in the high andes cornish with the lithium mining that is now planted that the flamingos will survive get the money go. for millennia nature was in equilibrium here then industrial countries needed rechargeable batteries for their smartphones and clean cars what followed was a lithium rush. santiago the tulane capital raw
materials account for about a third of chile's economic output they bring important foreign currency into the country but it's money from which the city of santiago mainly benefits. chile's minister of mining has no intention of giving up the income generated by lithium. elite you get lithium is a natural resource that's currently in high demand for electoral mobility and it boosts the national economy. and it will flow by i should learn from other countries that have not sacrificed their environment for these resources by a security nonsense if you go to maybe i think environmental protection a mining company compatible if companies invest in the latest technology and percentage of people you can bring more of you. matilda lopez doesn't believe new technologies can be of any help she says the effects of mining in the
arctic on a desert are too severe even today. she's already worried about what she might find on her next visit to the salt flat. folks wagons transparent factory in dresden is a showcase for electro mobility the world's biggest carmaker is making its new eagle off here the company aims to be the market leader in electric cars by twenty twenty five. the factory may call itself transparent but v.w. is less so. when asked where the lithium for its batteries originates. please kindly notes that we cannot comment on our suppliers or sub suppliers as the information is competitively sensitive. b.m.w. in contrast does at least admit that lithium from chile is used in its e-commerce
and invoices responsibility for the local environment. we always choose our suppliers based on the strictest criteria where sustainability is concerned. locally there's no sign that these statements have any effect german carmakers are faced with a dilemma right now they're dependent on lithium from chile for vehicles but there may be an environmentally friendly alternative in the long term. that's because there are deposits of the valuable light metal in the all mountains that straddle the czech german border once ten was mined in these pits soon miners will be digging for lithium. at least that's what army moved up plans to do he's head of the dutch lithium company he wants to start next year. that's for you act was
not the project must be carried out soon because the current market prices of lithium and lithium compounds are very high and the sooner the product is on the market the more we can take advantage of these high prices and i'm on money coming from. really needs the high prices to make underground mining financially viable. exploratory drilling has been successful according to miller's calculations the libyan reserves would be enough for some ten million cars but environmentally friendly mining would still have to overcome several obstacles. virtud south lawn and environmental protection regulations are very strict in germany as they should be they're stricter than other regions on earth like south america of course those restrictions will make mining more expensive. so perhaps lithium from germany
could replace at least some chilean lithium. but there's another raw material that german car makers urgently need for their aleck trivia cause cobalt the batteries contain between ten and fifteen kilograms of the metal. nearly two thirds of the world's production comes from a single country the democratic republic of congo. president joseph kabila rules with an iron hand one way he funds his regime is by selling cobalt. this is where it comes from the mining city of call raese in the south of the d r c some five hundred thousand people live here. the city sits on a huge deposit of cobalt or it's excavated in
a mine on the city limits that belongs to a chinese company. there are only a few jobs for local residents many have to make do with what they can scavenge on the slag heap. practically none of the money german car makers pay for cobalt arrives in co ways. very few people have clean water. there's no sewage system. no waste disposal. everywhere in the city there's dirt and refuse
but the locals also want to profit from the coast. home in a mine your coal weighs in about five thousand men are searching for the coveted mineral on their own with them are many children. manuel and his men are here every day they've been digging in their shaft for three years. we don't have a license to look for cobalt here when we've sold this or we bribed the mine supervisors and the police they leave us alone. but you know if you're to me. they have no professional equipment just cheap headlamps they go down barefoot and with no safe guards will it's a vertical drop of forty five meters. in the.
moment they use their hands and feet to support themselves on the walls of the shaft. zone. the reward. down in the mine it's cramped and stuffy. was the reason. for. the miners hack at the rock with rudimentary tools. then they scoop the cobalt or into socks. or. a little bit of. the after just a few minutes where the air is full of cobalt dust it's highly toxic and causes severe lung damage. without face masks breathing becomes increasingly difficult. someone. or. at least six men are needed to pull the
sacks up to the surface. it's exhausting work. to live on the. game. the rocks contain about eight percent cobalt you know the men are risking their lives day in day out for a battery component. while much of what the mixed doubles people die from accidents than other chefs because they take no safety measures but we had to separate the risks so we've been fine because when you come up we could be. looking up to twenty percent of the cobalt from the d.r.s. he comes from these small mines that get dug somehow somewhere. will consume well at the other end of coase the. cobalt was discovered here four years
ago. but the entire village is now virtually riddled with mines every few meters there is a shaft that goes deep into the earth often right next to the huts where people live. earth. but the cobalt rush has scarcely changed the inhabitants poverty the trains like this a standard. ride the more you're. all going to live is one of those who wanted to make big profits from cobalt because. it didn't happen. to see a new life here in the mining area is extremely tough all we want to do is leave but we have no money stuck in the mud hut he shares with his wife and their two
children is about eight square metres in size two tiny rooms no electricity no water. no toilet. lou globo course is a very dangerous place especially for the children there are deep shafts everywhere my wife always has to stay with the children so they don't fall in but yet i'm with that now she's pregnant and not feeling well that makes it difficult you know but yeah well. the shots pose a deadly danger for the children. not . descending into the mines is also hazardous but the men are glad to have any work at all and earn at least a little money. and they do it
even though the shafts could collapse at any time. during. the rock containing the or is extremely porous. but. the work is really very dangerous there are accidents almost every day on the sides because the soil is so unstable and instability will she tell the government doesn't help us at all be registered to go home and pursue it. everywhere in the village there are shops that have collapsed time and again workers are buried alive. the men
are underground from morning till evening despite that the money often doesn't even cover the most basic necessities. softball only children only go to school if their parents can pay if not they stay at home or if they are they help their mothers wash the stones or live below. the men take the socks to the washing area. and there the rocks are cleansed from dust and dirt. this is the women's responsibility. cuts. only after washing can valuable or be separated from worthless rock fragments. many children go with their mothers to the washing area they've never been to
school. they spend the time scraping up leftover bits of cobalt. the home village sells the aura to chinese middlemen. but many people feel they're being cheated. i've run the code below is a when the chinese way are all they always try to double cross us. but they claim that all contains only three percent cobalt but that would have been about the given when it contains ten percent of them a game of. this is where the cobalt or buyers set with some pull mineral market outside coase the. trade is firmly in chinese hands. the price depends on the cobalt content to determine not the owner is pulverized and measured with an x. ray fluorescence spectrometer.
trucks take the minerals to the nearest port. many deliveries go to refineries in asia. and for years and has been tracking the routes congolese cobalt or tanks is an expert on the mineral trade at amnesty international. to the how could so i just was she a study has shown that chinese companies in the congo by the offer marches on the mines send it on to be refined in china and from there the metallic cobalt goes to the producers of battery components and batteries. and those batteries end up in german electric cars to enter. so german a car is probably contained cobalt from small mines in the. german car makers comments are vague. dialer writes.
the supply chains include a great many sub suppliers and are thus to some extent very complex that makes it hard to verify the origin of raw materials. we strive to ensure that our supply chains process only cobalt that comes from industrial mines with suitable sustainability standards. other carmakers present similar arguments they consider it to be mainly their suppliers responsibility but that doesn't solve the problems in the d r c. at the c.s.w. battery research center in oil and scientists are working on a truly clean solution a lithium ion battery that works entirely without cobalt for years they've been working on a rechargeable battery of the future now they've almost reached their goal. and must be all in flickered now developed to materials with energy densities
comparable to or even better than those containing cobalt. we can already built. small cells and we're trying to upscale this material to kilogram levels. at present we can produce about one hundred or two hundred grams of this material from what we are now is progressing to a ten kilograms. seed cuticle washed up. cobalt free batteries could be a reality in five years time until then experts say responsibility lies with german carmakers. this calm mixed cannot be the case the air in germany we drive environmentally friendly electric vehicles while the roma tiriel xfer that components a mind in developing countries under the most appalling circumstances in. environmental damage from lithium mining in chilling. doctors all think about any
human working conditions in the d.r. see. a good example as well is the price of a lecture on mobility of her right over budget. cuts. play. to play. play. play to. the fast pace of life in the digital shift as the lowdown on the web showing new developments and providing useful information to the wittiest phone lines and interviews with the makers and users of fish if next on t.w. . if her first day of school in the
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